12 billion metric tonnes: the amount of plastic expected to be dumped in our oceans and landfill by 2050 if present trends continue.

Shocking. Governments, consumers, businesses, the world looks on – what can we do? 

With everything from food to fashion wrapped in unnecessary layers of unrecyclable plastic, packaging design is becoming more important than ever. 

In the last couple of years, the change in direction has been profound. FMCG companies are furiously clamouring to reach their Board-level targets of moving to fully environmentally-friendly and sustainable products and packaging as soon as possible.  

This presents an issue. How do you combat the consumer demand for a sustainable product without detracting from the brand’s attributes such as masculinity, premiumness, boldness or freshness, etc.  

For example, research shows that when packaging looks like it is made out of recycled materials (like brown textured cardboard), consumers perceive the product to be more sustainable (e.g. Magnier, Schoormans & Mugge, 2016). But what if your product’s key promise is ‘freshness’? Brown textured cardboard is not generally associated with that.

Take another example – the use of green colours and other earthy shades has been proven to cue up perceptions of sustainability and a connection to nature (e.g. DeLong & Goncu-Berk, 2012). This is fine if you’re creating a totally new brand - but what if you are an existing brand with a completely contrary colour palette designed to evoke premium qualities? Perhaps your dominant brand colour is pink or purple, hues not typically linked to naturalness. 

As a result, brands, product innovation and packaging designers are left scratching their heads. It doesn’t have to be this way.  

Sensory marketing and design, based on science, gives us the tools we need to deliver on both actual and perceived sustainability of packaging without compromising any other product and/or brand quality.  

Actually, the opposite is true – it affords an opportunity to ‘steal-a-march’ on competitors by developing enhanced products and packaging. Products that are perceived as functionally more effective, significantly more rewarding to use, and that create stronger emotional connections between brand and consumer. And all using inherently sustainable packaging materials and formats. It’s totally possible to marry every sensory element in a way that is not only satisfactory, but much improved. 

Saltwater Brewery’s new eco-friendly six-pack rings are a great example of this. Plastic-not-so-fantastic beer can holders are the bane of our oceans, with thousands of animals and marine life being killed by them each year. To combat this ever-growing issue, Saltwater Brewery have produced a biodegradable, compostable, eco-friendly pack ring made from byproducts from the beer brewing process. The ring can also act as fish food if it enters marine habitats!  

Whilst a great sustainable packaging innovation, it could be further enhanced with a multisensory approach to ensure it still communicates the product’s key attributes such as refreshment.  For example with the use of textures, and colours, shapes and forms within the graphical design that we know will prime consumers for a refreshing taste experience.

Marrying a sensory approach with sustainability shouldn’t be reserved solely for package design. It can be imbued across comms, rituals, staff behaviour, activations... Literally everything.

Around 8.3 billion metric tonnes of plastic have been produced so far, with the majority ending up as waste. This is roughly the equivalent of 35,000 Empire State Buildings or yes, you guessed it - a billion elephants.

Sensory marketing and design can help us on the journey to dramatically cutting this down and lead to some amazing new sustainable products along the way. 

Feeling intrigued and want your brand to benefit from the power of a sensory marketing approach? Contact us at listen@condimentjunkie.co.uk